Sunday sermons are funny things. Confession; sometimes I step up to the plate totally convinced that the message is a home run, only to find out it’s a soft single or a short fly ball at best. Then there are the days I have walked gingerly to the pulpit praying my words might at least be serviceable, maybe even help somebody and, dear Lord, do no harm. As one preacher put it, sometimes you’ve got something to say; and sometimes you have to say something. One of the most important sermons I remember preaching pitched its tent in that second camp.
It was about our need to forgive others, if for no other reason than resentment just doesn’t work. There were some other reasons, but the offer of laying down some long-lugged load was suddenly inviting to folks. They leaned in and listened, and afterwards a dusty altar was swept clean by praying knees and long held back tears. And I really didn’t see it coming.
For the better part of a month I have been working my way series called “Finding Our Freedom.” The more I prepare and preach, the more I see that I should have out an “S” on the end of it. While freedom is singularly wonderful word, its pursuit comes from the core of every craving, from desires dwelling deep down in the soul and psyche. There are a lot of freedoms we need to know and know. That’s true for everybody. And every church.
Our congregation is deeply rooted in the free church tradition, specifically its Baptist branch. We have been accused over the centuries of being too individualistic when it comes to personal faith and its corporate expression through the church. Five hundred years ago it was more than a rowdy idea that every person was competent to read the Bible and, under the leadership of the Spirit, interpret it. It seemed heresy to say that all souls could claim access to God through Jesus, and nobody else. Governments didn’t like it much when folks defied the dictate to stick to the nationally endorsed church and stay loyal to both. Neither did the power religious institutions who had cozied up to them. And if individuals could chart their faith and practice, it stood to reason our forebearers would claim the same for the local church.
Lisa has always said that Independence Day was her favorite family holiday. Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter are pretty wonderful, mind you, but are often be marked with a heaping helping of expectations. Demands and stress. Not so with The Fourth. No days of decorating and gift gathering. Hot dogs and watermelon are easier to assemble than the full fare of a Thanksgiving feast. And the kids will find shorts, flip flops, and an Old Navy T-shirt preferable to any springtime primp and pose.
As for our clan, we are off to Atlanta to join sixty thousand of our closest friends for the six point two miles of painful patriotism known as the Peachtree Road Race. For a decade and a half, that’s what we have done by the dawn’s early light. And post race recovery can only take place at The Nuevo Laredo Cantina. Later, the twilight’s last gleaming will fall on us and the Atlanta Braves, followed by some serious rocket’s red glare. And it’s all in the company of people we want to be with, and nobody we don’t. How good is that? Let freedom ring.